May 28, 2010
For the Memorial Day weekend, an assortment of news from the world of air and space:
► The field of hypersonic flight has a new record: The Air Force’s X-51A Waverider reached Mach 5 in a 200-second scramjet engine burn over the Pacific on Wednesday. Video below:
► What looked at first like a small asteroid circling the sun may in fact be an old Soviet rocket stage from the failed Luna 23 sample return mission in 1974. It may come back to hit us in 2036 (the nerve!) but it’s too small to do anything but burn up in the atmosphere.
► The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an airborne telescope created by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, registered “first light” Wednesday night. Here’s a video of some of the pre-flight preparations and the takeoff. And here’s a shot of Jupiter taken during the flight.
► Tomorrow is the 23rd anniversary of 19-year-old Mathias Rust’s daring (dumb?) landing in Red Square, still one of the most talked-about aviation stunts in history.
► And after racking up more than 120 million miles during 32 orbital flights over 25 years, the space shuttle Atlantis came back to Earth for the last time on Wednesday, capping the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station. Commander Ken Ham made a particularly soft touchdown:
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